The 15 Best Things to do in Asheville in Summer
Asheville is glorious in the summer! There is so much to do, and the weather couldn’t be more perfect. It’s in the 60s in the morning and rarely goes up to the low/middle 80s during the day. A day with higher temperatures is not unheard of, but it’s rare!
Also, there are plenty of opportunities to cool down by a river, a creek, or a waterfall, and you don’t have to go far to enjoy cooler temperatures at higher elevations. Hiking, enjoying the outdoors, and playing by the water are some of the best things to do in Asheville in summer.
Asheville is a favorite destination for family vacations, and modern families today include their furry friends! Fortunately, there are many dog-friendly activities in Asheville. Although dogs on leashes are allowed on hiking trails and gardens, the Smoky Mountains National Park only allows them alongside roads and picnic areas.
Downtown Asheville is one hundred percent walkable, and although it can be on the hot side during the day, the weather is perfect when the sun starts setting and the cool breeze kicks in. So take a few evenings to explore downtown’s shops and restaurants, and leave some room after dinner for a beautiful frozen treat.
Asheville has many fabulous festivals all year round, but most take place in downtown Asheville during the summer – so check them out! Of course, summers are an ideal time to enjoy Asheville’s famous farm-to-table food scene and check out the menus offering seasonal dishes highlighting the abundant summer harvest – think blueberry pies and fried green tomatoes!
In case you’re planning a summer escape to our town, I’ve compiled a list of some of the top things to do in Asheville in summer. Happy travels!
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15 Fun Summer Activities in Asheville
1. Join the Drag Queen Bar Crawl and Help Fundraise for a Local Nonprofit
Beer Flight, A Drag Queen Bar Crawl (21+) is the newest of the many incredible downtown walking tours, and it’s a lot of fun. It combines comedy and beer (or your preferred drink) in support of a local nonprofit. This is a win-win summer activity and you can’t miss it!
The tour lasts two hours and includes stops at some of Asheville’s most iconic breweries, two or three flights of craft beer, seltzer, wine, or sours, a souvenir sticker, a snack, and lots of fun photo ops with your hilarious drag queen “wannabe flight attendant.” In addition, you won’t have to pay a cover fee at the venues or wait to be served.
This is the perfect summer activity for special occasions, like birthday parties, bachelor or bachelorette parties, or divorce parties! Besides having a super fun evening, you’ll support Bearded Lady Productions 501c3, which hosts events to raise funds for over 15 local organizations promoting acceptance, equity, and community welfare.
If the Queens are hosting a special event that night, you can access VIP seats. Check out their calendar, and you might be able to add Drag Karaoke or Drag Music Bingo to your night out.
Not sure if you can’t make it to the tour but want to support the cause? Donate here or check out their other events!
2. Check Out Downtown After 5, “Asheville’s Original Street Party”
Asheville offers many cool festivals year-round, but Downtown After 5 (DTA5) is “Asheville’s original street party.” It still has that laid-back, neighborhood vibe even 35 years after its first edition. It occurs every third Friday from April to September on the famous Lexington Ave. (voted one of the best streets in the US!).
The festival features local and regional bands, food trucks, and many drink options, including local beer. This is a great chance to hang out with locals of all ages and backgrounds, check out Asheville vendors, and explore the shops and street art on Lexington Ave. You can just follow the festival’s Facebook page for updates.
3. Join in on Asheville’s Famous Drum Circle
Another family-friendly summer staple in Asheville is the Drum Circle, which is held every Friday night at Pritchard Park. You are welcome to bring your drums, or you can borrow one. Also, be ready to dance!
The small and charming Pritchard Park is surrounded by some of the best restaurants in town. Check out Tupelo Honey for fantastic Southern food, or the S&W Market, a food court with options for everyone and home of Highland Brewery.
If you get hot after all that dancing, take your inner child (or your real children!) to cool down at Splashville, a modern splash pad in Pack Square featuring colorful lights that make perfect photo ops.
4. Go Ziplining Over the Treetops
Do you want a fun, empowering adventure to increase your adrenaline levels while enjoying the natural beauty of the summer in Asheville? The multi-recognized and awarded Navitat Canopy Adventures Asheville offers ziplining tours for every taste, including a night tour!
The Treetop Tour is their original and most popular tour, featuring a completely tree-based design (you’ll only stop at trees), three scenic trails, and six ziplines (the longest is 1,250 feet). Expect plenty of leaps, as well as the chance to rappel to the forest floor.
You’ll traverse the canopy and reach heights up to 80 feet for three hours! Participants must weigh between 60 and 225 pounds, and the minimum age is five.
They offer six tours, including an express 90-minute family-friendly adventure to ensure you get the most out of your time in the mountains, a 3,600-foot-long zipline from mountaintop to mountaintop (doable during the day or after dark!), and an adventure package that will give the best value for your money.
They offer GoPro rentals, photo packages, and private tours for your party.
5. Follow Stephen Hawking’s Advice and “Look Up at the Stars and Not Down at Your Feet”
The famous physicist and author continued: “Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.” Asheville’s skies are perfect for year-round stargazing (and soul-searching!), and there are many opportunities to do it solo or as part of an organized event.
The Blue Ridge Parkway offers tons of chances to watch the sky. You can drive to an overlook, lay down on a blanket, bring a telescope or binoculars (or not!), and wait for what messages the stars have for you. Some favorite overlooks are Mt. Pisgah Trailhead and Craggy Dome Overlook.
Bring some wine and French Broad Chocolate goodies, including the fantastic 2023 “Good Food Awards” winner “Rose, Cardamom, and Pistachio Bonbon,” inspired by Indian Kulfi!
The active Astronomy Club of Asheville hosts many in-person and online events, including two free monthly stargazes (pre-registration is required).
The stargazing venues are the Lookout Observatory of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, which is very close to downtown, and the Grassland Mountain Observatory in Madison County (about an hour from Asheville).
They also offer private stargaze requests at the dark-sky Grassland Mountain Observatory in Madison County (an elevation of 4,130 feet). You’ll love watching the sunset and observing the Belt of Venus, meteors, planets, stars, star clusters, nebulae, the Milky Way, and other galaxies with a guide.
6. Go with the Flow of the French Broad River
Tubing the French Broad River – one of the oldest rivers in the world – is one of the best things to do in Asheville in the summer. You’ll love joining the many local families and visitors during their lazy river float, a classic summer activity.
Zen Tubing has been voted “Asheville’s Best River Tubing” company, offering experiences for the entire family. Kids four years and older are welcome, but dogs are not allowed. You only need to park by one of the meeting locations, check in, and they’ll take you to your starting point. The equipment includes a super deluxe tube with a backrest, cup holder, covered bottom, and the ability to hook together to your friends.
The trips last between 2 and 3.5 hours, allowing time for you to swim, wade, and relax by the river. You can bring your cooler (up to 50 quarts), and they’ll provide you with cooler carrier tubes. Adult beverages in non-glass containers are permitted!
You can also bring your tube and pay a fee to use the shuttle.
7. Enjoy Some of Asheville’s Best Cool Treats
I don’t know about you, but trying frozen treats is one of my favorite Asheville summer activities. We have so many good options – one summer is too short to try them all!
Buggy Pops offers “gourmet ice pops, handcrafted with love” to make your summer day even more perfect. This small BIPOC woman-owned company’s ice cream trucks can be found at local farmers’ markets and venues (check the calendar on their website).
The pops are inspired by flavors worldwide (I love the Coconut/Cinnamon and the Banana Pudding w/ Nilla Wafers). The founder, Neomi, is a fun, fascinating woman, so make sure you take some time to talk to her (in English or Spanish!).
Sunshine Sammies in the South Slope of downtown has the best ice cream cookie sandwiches! They have a cute indoor seating area and a patio where you can savor their creative flavors. Think about a vanilla cookie with cardamom and black tea ice cream.
In addition, they have an adorable ice cream truck that goes around the neighborhoods near downtown. Run outside with your wallet if you hear the theme song from the movie The Sting.
Finally, The Hop is one of Asheville’s favorite ice cream shops. It features four locations (including one downtown), a creamery, frozen treats for dogs and cats, vegan options, custom-made ice cream cakes, and the most fun flavors!
All the ingredients are locally sourced. They are famous for their collaborative flavors made by combining flavors from local restaurants, chocolate shops, and breweries.
8. Go Blueberry Picking and Finish Your Adventure with Your Mouth and Fingernails (Temporarily) Blue
Is there anything better than eating fresh blueberries plucked straight from the bush? One of the top things to do in Asheville in the summer is to pick your own berries. You can go to a farm, where you’ll be charged by the gallon, or hike to find these tiny luxurious fruits packed with vitamins and antioxidants.
Wild blueberries are ripe along the Blue Ridge Parkway toward the end of August into early fall. The most popular spots include Craggy Gardens, Graybeard Trail, Graveyard Fields (a very popular kid-friendly hike with waterfalls included!), and Black Balsam Knob.
According to the National Park Service rules, you can only gather one gallon of blueberries per person per day. Tip: go early in the season and early in the day!
Cloud 9 Farm offers 200 acres of wooded nature trails and bottomland (plus cabins for a stay at the farm and rustic wedding options!). You can pick blueberries by the gallon starting in late July through August, depending on the weather. In addition, you can buy grass-fed meat, pasture eggs, and other goodies.
Of course, you can also find fantastic local berries at the farmers’ markets and on the menus of many local restaurants, ice cream places, and chocolate shops!
9. Cool Down (and Get Your Kids Exhausted) at Sliding Rock
Pisgah National Forest is home to many of the most popular waterfalls, swimming holes, and hiking trails in the area, including the famous Sliding Rock, a natural 60-foot waterslide powered by 11,000 gallons of water per minute, ending in an 8-foot-deep pool. Does it sound like fun? It is!
The Sliding Rock Recreation Area is open all year round, but there will only be lifeguards and restrooms from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day. You won’t need to pay an entrance fee if you visit during the off-season to enjoy the water fun “at your own risk.”
This is one of the best Asheville summer activities for families. Also, dogs are welcome here! Once you get hungry (and it will happen quickly with all the action), go picnicking at the Pink Beds picnic area, which is just four miles away. Picnics and alcohol are not permitted at Sliding Rock. Tip: visit before noon or after 4:00 pm to avoid the crowds.
10. Learn More About Appalachian Music with These Two Summer Events
The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival is a 96-year-old institution that, every year in August, brings an opportunity to appreciate “the talent and dedication of the hundreds of musicians, dancers, and storytellers who preserve the traditions of the Southern Appalachian.”
This three-day music festival takes place in the summer at the UNCA Lipinsky Hall. The tickets are very affordable, and there are special prices for students and kids. Think about bluegrass rhythms, clog-dancing, and the chance to learn about the culture made of the blending of Scottish, English, Irish, Cherokee, and African heritage.
Shindig on the Green is the younger sister of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (it’s “only” 57 years old!) and occurs every Friday in July and August around 7:00 pm at Pack Square in the heart of downtown and close to some of the best restaurants in town.
This festival features the music and dance traditions of Southern Appalachia on stage, and folks are welcome to bring their instruments for informal jam sessions around the grass. It’s free and super fun.
You’ll love the Stoney Creek Boys, the bluegrass and old-time string bands, listening to the ballad songs under the summer sky, and the clog dancers, who always invite the public to participate. Please be smarter than me and don’t wear flip-flops!
11. End the Day with a Sunset Hike and Scenic Picnic at Craggy Gardens
Asheville’s sunsets are astonishing and enjoyable from so many places! From rooftop bars and restaurants to mountaintops and scenic drives, there is no excuse not to celebrate the end of another day of life by watching the sun go down.
Hiking is one of the best things to do in our area year-round, but sunset hikes are one of the top things to do in Asheville in summer.
There are many favorite places to go, but Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway holds a special place in Ashevillians’ hearts. It has everything: it’s close to town and features blooming Catawba Rhododendrons in June, blueberries in August, and perfect 360-degree mountain views 365 days a year.
The best part? You can reach the views after an easy 30 minutes, which makes it one of the best kid-friendly Asheville hikes. Pair your hike with a picnic basket from The Rhu, snacks and sandwiches from the French Broad Coop, or burritos and guacamole from Mamacita’s.
12. Have Brunch at These Two Restaurants That Have an Adjacent Vegetable Garden
A quick stroll or drive around Asheville’s neighborhoods will make you see that urban gardening is an important piece of our culture. Many families, even in neighborhoods within walking distance to downtown, have chickens in their backyards and pet goats and pigs! Walk Cumberland Ave. in Montford if you don’t believe me.
Many Asheville urban parks are populated with dozens of fruit trees and bushes, and the city’s restaurants and cafés were some of the first ones to embrace the farm-to-table movement. These two restaurants have two things in common: they serve fantastic brunch and have adjacent gardens.
Located in a repurposed 1920s cottage near downtown Asheville, Liberty House Cafe is set on a one-acre property full of fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and many flowers, including gigantic sunflowers in the summer.
Their food is delicious, and the café is perfect for families, including crawling babies and dogs. It’s next door to the nationally renowned yoga studio Asheville Yoga Center. The best part? You can take a couple of pieces of fruit from the trees home with you.
Sunny Point Café is one of the best places to eat in Asheville. It serves breakfast, brunch, and dinner, focusing on seasonal, local ingredients and made-from-scratch Southern food. Everything tastes excellent!
They love fresh ingredients so much that they have a lovely urban vegetable garden beside the restaurant. There are some vintage games your little kids will enjoy, and they have recently added a bakery next door.
13. Take a Stroll at One (or All!) of These Three Flower-Filled Gardens
Your list of Asheville summer activities must include spotting flowers. There are plenty of wildflowers in our mountains, and you’ll find them on every hike. But the city’s formal gardens feature a great collection of native and non-native flowers that thrive here and will be adored by your Insta-friends!
If this is your first visit to Asheville, you’re probably planning a visit to the Biltmore Estate. Take extra time to stroll around its gardens, which were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park. Or get a ticket to visit just the grounds and gardens.
You’ll love the variety of hydrangeas in June, the super photogenic sunflower fields in July, and the perennials in full bloom in August.
The North Carolina Arboretum is one of Asheville’s most beautiful urban gardens. The best part? The entrance is free, although you do have to pay a small parking fee. It features 10 miles of hiking trails, beautiful formal gardens, interesting exhibits, and educational activities for kids. Plus, there’s an excellent bistro on-site.
The Botanical Gardens at Asheville in North Asheville (5 minutes from downtown) have lovely native flowers in the spring, summer, and fall. In addition, there is a creek where locals love to hang out in the summer, an easy hiking trail perfect for kids, and two Instagrammable bridges.
While dogs are welcomed on the Biltmore grounds and the North Carolina Arboretum, they’re not allowed at the Botanical Gardens.
14. Explore Asheville by Riding an Electric Bike
Asheville is a great place for biking. It offers awesome mountain biking options and has many urban trails to explore.
The Flying Bike offers electric bike rentals of two, four, or eight hours. They’ll provide you with helmets, a bike lock, cold spring water (you’ll need to bring your water bottle), a rear cargo bag with rain cover, rain ponchos, and an interactive map of Asheville’s greenways, including points of interest.
Our city’s growing system of greenways connects trails with parks, playgrounds, cafés, restaurants, and breweries, and exploring the area by bike is one of the top things to do in Asheville in summer!
In addition, The Flying Bike offers cool tours to explore the city’s attractions. You’ll love their downtown tour, which is also one of the most popular Asheville tours. There is also a tour that takes you to the River Arts District’s art shops, galleries, and restaurants, as well as a newly added pizza tour that will take you to the best pizza joints in town!
15. Support Local Artists by Participating in one of These Activities
Asheville is known for many good things, and its artists are one of them. There are many fantastic art galleries, and summer is the ideal time to see their work, give them some love at their studios, and take a few Asheville art pieces home with you!
The River Arts District (RAD) by the French Broad River is home to over 200 art studios and some of the best restaurants and breweries in town. Plus, it’s by the French Broad River, making it an excellent spot to spend a whole day mixing water fun with art and local food. In addition, a shuttle connects the RAD with downtown.
The Big Crafty is a bi-annual festival that takes place in July and December at Harrah’s Cherokee Center in Asheville. This festival has been voted Asheville’s best art festival many times. Why? Because it welcomes artists of all levels, from beginners to renowned, and has an “anything is possible” feeling that’s very welcoming and empowering.
Asheville Art in the Park is another excellent arts festival that happens on three Saturdays each June and October in Pack Square (downtown) and showcases the work of renowned local artists.